CAN YOU JUDGE A BOOK BY THE COVER OF ITS AUTHOR?
The answer to that is I’m not sure if you can judge a book that way but you can certainly choose to read one. It is because of the cover of it’s author that I have spent the last ten days reading War by Sebastian Junger.
Now I don’ t normally read books on war. In fact I have read relatively few, probably in a lifetime of reading you can count my war books on one hand. This was actually pointed out to me by Glenn when I announced that I was going to read War. He said, “You don’t read war books.” I said,“Well, I have.”
“The Things They Carry by Tim O’Brien and I liked it – a lot.”
“That one book, as good as it is, does not make you a person who reads books on war. It makes you a person who read one very important book on war.”
“Well, that’s more than most girls I know.”
Now mind you this is coming from someone who has read every book ever written about not only World War II, but especially D-Day. Like every summer some new book on D-Day comes out and Glenn reads it in about twelve minutes. It amazes me. How much does he need to know? What was left out of the last thirty books? Is there a missing helmet buried in the sands of Normandy that was just discovered? Is there a dog tag that was somehow overlooked by the last six authors?
But see, Sebastian Junger is hot, I mean way hot. And not in that Italian guy I’m tossing a purple sweater around my shoulders hot. He’s hot in that he’s got testosterone dripping off himself and then onto the page hot. I think in the dictionary under testosterone is a picture of Sebastian Junger. You feel like when you’re reading his book if you just rub it on your body you will somehow absorb some of the excess hormone that he has left behind: that through merely holding a copy of War you will perhaps become a braver person and if nothing else, if you get bored you can flip to the jacket photo and look at him.
Now the odd thing is I did not feel this way when Perfect Storm came out. I tried to read it, again because of his high score on the hoto-meter. But I have a reccurring nightmare about being in a rough sea and not making it to shore so I could not finish that book nor watch the film; even with the Clooney- Junger combo. I also did not read Death in Belmont. OK– now don’t judge me on this one, I thought it was about a horse that died during a race. I really did and I can’t handle horses that die while racing. I’m one of those people who thinks horse racing should be outlawed. Now of course Death in Belmont had nothing to do with horses, but I was clearly not paying much attention to Sebastian at the time.
But the other night when Junger was on Charlie Rose I made Glenn give me the remote and stop racing through the channels. We were going to watch Sebastian Junger and Charlie Rose and at that moment I announced I would read War and then the whole you never read war books conversation followed.
I did not however go out the next day and buy the book, I waited until the weekend and we were in Book Hampton, as I like to keep the small booksellers alive. I refuse to go to the Barnes and Noble near my office. So we were in Book Hampton and I went straight for War. Glenn said, “You’ll never read it, I know you.”
At that moment an adorable young guy appeared at my side and said, “That is a great book, you will love it.”
Ha! Someone understood me– or was a great salesman. Since he had never laid eyes on me it had to be the former. He immediately introduced himself as Zach Fishman. He went on to explain why War was such a great book. I immediately adored Zach Fishman, he’s not Sebastian ’embed yourself with the 2nd Company Platoon and get shot at for eleven months’ cute, he’s Zach Braff cute, Glenn thirty-five years ago cute. He’s devoted to books and thoughts and he’s on his way to Yale graduate school in two years cute.
He is verbally fearless and clearly devoted to succeed. Since I couldn’t adopt him, I was trying to figure out how we could turn him into a summer romance for Taylor or if nothing else he should be working for Glenn.
Glenn thought that too after he introduced himself to him and then went on to praise Glenn’s bookshops. Glenn is easy to get to. Zach Fishman is clearly going places.
But at least now I had two men egging me on, Sebastian in image and Zach Fishman through his tour de force salesmanship.
So, off I went to read War. And while it took me longer than some books do as I don’t understand artillery and have to reread some sentences as combat is not always easy for me to follow, I liked it as it is fundamentally a book about human behavior and nothing interests me more than that. This just happens to be how humans behave under the most challenging and primitive of wartime circumstances
And then there was always Sebastian in the background. Right after I bought the book I came home and Tweeted proudly “I am reading War.” Sebastian then started following me on Twitter. I almost died, I was beside myself. Of course I was to learn he doesn’t do his own Tweets. So it’s not like he saw my image like I saw his and went oh wow – have to follow the woman who writes about whatever she wants. No, his Tweetmaster just picks up whenever he has a fan and they follow them.
So there I was deep in the Korengal trying to get to the end and Lucy kept tabs on my progress. “You’re only on page 67, I’ve just read four hundred pages of Percy Jackson.” (This series on Greek Mythology she is working her way through at an alarming speed. I guess she wants to move on to D- Day before the sixth grade.)
“Well this is about war and I blogged, edited and worked out today, and you know I don’t have as much time to read as you do,” I replied. She snapped a silly band and returned to her Percy Jackson book.
And then this week Restrepo came out, as not only was the manly man embedded with 2nd Company Platoon getting shot at on a daily basis and writing his book, he was making a documentary about it as well.
I dragged Glenn to a five o’clock showing the day after it opened. It’s an amazing film and what was great was for the first time in a film on war I knew more than he did. I could say things like “In the book the battle was much deadlier than this.” Or “See the guy on the left, he’s about to take two bullets in the neck and bleed out.” I learned terms like that, “bleed out.” I don’t like to use them as they refer to war but it was the first time I could talk war talk to a man and I found that appealing.
The upshot of all this is War is a very good book even if you are a woman who tries to stay away from the topic and Restrepo is an impressive film that everyone should see. It explains not only how we are doing what we are doing in Afghanistan but the mindset and lives of our soldiers. And it proved to me that sometimes, at least in the case of Sebastian Junger you can judge a book by the cover of its author.
And BTW – Glenn is reading it now and he can’t put it down.